Jeffrey’s Grocery (West Village)

Jeffrey's Grocery West Village

  • Why it’s worth it: Jeffrey’s Grocery is enjoyable and bumping at any time of day and is the perfect place for your next date, dinner with your parents or solo-dining experience.
  • Vibe/layout: Although this ‘straunt can get loud and rowdy at times, it sill feels like a charming, intimate, neighborhood diner,  featuring a handsome wooden L-shaped bar that seats a dozen overlooking a minuscule kitchen, while high communal tables and smaller dining tables add an additional dozen seats. This homey corner space exudes a worn rustic-chic ambiance with high pressed tin ceilings, wooden floors, exposed brick and cookbooks scattered on distressed wood shelves.
  • Ideal meal: Crispy salmon ($25) – The salmon filet comes in a corn broth with shrimp and a ton of vegetables. Trust us, order it.
  • ‘Straunt tip: Grab a drink at the Garret (speakeasy above Five Guys), feast at Jeffrey’s Grocery and then enjoy some ice cream from Big Gay Ice Cream to end the evening.
  • F.Y.I.: Gabriel and Gina Stulman, Jeffery’s owners, are also the couple behind Joseph Leonard (across the street) and Fedora (close by). When Jeffrey’s Grocery first opened, it was a kitschy little cafe that also tried selling groceries. Since then, they ditched the faux store-front, upgraded the chef and made the most out of the space.
  • Address: West Village, 172 Waverly Place (on the corner of Christopher St)
  • Prices: $5-$37 (average dinner main is $25)

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Uva (UES): Mangia Monday

Uva UES Italian

  • Why it’s worth it: As you walk into Uva you are transported to a rustic style Italian villa that is perfect for a romantic rendezvous, late-night dinner or after work drink. The food is fresh and rich in flavor and texture and will not disappoint.
  • Vibe/layout: The vibe is rustic and relaxed, with seating spread between the main room, the private wine cellar and the year-round backyard patio. This ‘straunt is intimate and homey, but also a bit swanky and trendy. The decor is reminiscent of a home or dining room in Tuscany with old photographs of Italy and antique mirrors lining the walls.
  • Ideal meal: Gnocchi di ricotta ($19)
  • F.Y.I.: Uva is the direct offspring of Lusardi’s, an UES Italian ‘straunt right up the street, such that Massimo Lusardi, the owner of Uva, is the son of Mauro Lusardi, a Parma native and owner of Lusardi’s!
  • Address: UES, 1486 2nd Ave (between 77th & 78th St)
  • Prices: $6.50 – $23

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Friday Night Dinner at Natural Gourmet Institute

Good Food for a Good Cause: A Friday Night Dinner to Remember

Natural Gourmet Institute

  • Why it’s worth it: Every Friday night, Natural Gourmet Institute is transformed into an intimate dining room, in which the Chef’s Training Program students and instructors prepare a three-course vegan Friday Night Dinner. The meals are innovative, delectable and exquisitely prepared. Last Friday night, I was fortunate enough to be invited to this wonderful culinary experience and the menu for our fabulous dinner was created by Chef Barbara Rich.
  • Vibe/layout: The cozy, candlelit dining room houses several communal tables that foster friendly conversation and culinary appreciation. Don’t come here to be antisocial; come here to embrace wonderful food with wonderful company.
  • Menu for the 10/10 Friday Night Dinner:
    • Antipasto: A whole Portobello mushroom cooked perfectly with pine nut ricotta; cherry tomato-basil salad with mixed greens & white balsamic vinaigrette
      • The white balsamic vinaigrette puts any store-bought dressing to shame. Period.
    • Secondo: Three-grain risotto & tempeh sausage; butternut squash, pearl onions & broccolini with parsley pistou
    • Dolce: Chocolate terrine; almond custard; raspberry coulis & ginger crisps
  • ‘Straunt tip: The curriculum is based off of the founder’s seven core principles: the food should be seasonal, local, whole, traditional, balanced, fresh and delicious. And that’s just what it is.
  • Address: Flatiron, 48 West 21st St #2 (between 5th & Ave of the Americas)
  • Prices: $48.99 (Use code TheStraunt and get 15% off – valid through 10/31/14)

A little something extra:

  • After dinner, Chef Barbara and the culinary students who prepared the meal came out for a post-dinner Q&A. Overall, I was very impressed by the deliciousness of the vegetarian meals that seamed so complex but used such simple ingredients. Not to mention that the white balsamic vinaigrette and the chocolate terrine blew me away!
  • With that said, if you are looking for something different to do on a Friday night in NYC, especially if you have a vegetarian friend or family member, we highly recommend checking out the Friday Night Dinners at Natural Gourmet Institute. The menus change from week to week, based on the ingredients that are in season. Not to mention… 10% of the proceeds from each dinner are donated to a charity.

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Cafeteria (Chelsea)

Cafeteria

  • Why it’s worth it: Cafeteria, a 24 hour ‘straunt, amps up the definition of comfort food and capitalizes on a prime people watching location, making it a great option for an after work drink or tasty meal with friends.
  • Vibe/layout: This ‘straunt is decked out in post-modern white, chrome and plastic, with wooden tables and a front wall made up of glass doors that lift up like a garage… leaving nothing in common with your typical school cafeteria. The ambiance is casual, yet upbeat and trendy.
  • Ideal meal: Mac attack tasting of all three mac and cheeses: cheddar & fontina, smoked gouda & bacon, with truffle oil ($14)… the crispy gooeyness will get you.
  • ‘Straunt tip: Check out the Phlegm mural on 17th between 9th & 10th and then indulge in amazing comfort food at Cafeteria.
  • Address: Chelsea, 119 7th Avenue (between 17th & 18th)
  • Prices: $10-$25

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Marta (Gramercy/Flatiron): Mangia Monday

Marta

  • Why it’s worth it: Marta, Danny Meyer’s new trendy rustic Roman pizzeria inside the Martha Washington Hotel, serves Italian appetizers in a way that can’t even be imagined. Marta is a hot spot for grabbing drinks with friends or a celebratory dinner with friends or family.
  • Vibe/layout: This two-leveled ‘straunt has a mezzanine with a bird’s-eye views of the main dining room below, which is anchored by an energetic open kitchen featuring two wood-burning ovens and an open-fire grill and surrounded by a big marble bar. Marta exudes warmth and communal energy,  and boasts soaring ceiling and wooden tables.
  • Ideal meal: Polpettine di tagliatelle (fried pasta “meatballs,” tomato, pecorino – think fried mac and cheese balls) ($9) & Suppli alla terrazza (green risotto, mozzarella – think risotto mozzarella sticks) ($6) to start; Capricciosa pizza (mozzarella, artichokes, prosciutto, olives, egg) ($15)
  • F.Y.I.: Danny Meyer, the restaurateur behind Union Square Cafe, Maialino, Shake Shack, etc, has teamed up with his Maialino chef, Nick Anderer to enter into the pizza game.
  • Address: Gramercy/Flatiron, 29 East 29th St (between Park & Madison)
  • Prices: $6-$29

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Hundred Acres (Soho): Brunch

Hundred Acres

  • Why it’s worth it: This relaxing yet stylish spot serves delicious, fresh and local southern inspired food, not to mention the best cinnamon buns we’ve ever had. Hundred Acres is a great spot for grabbing brunch with family and friends.
  • Vibe/layout: This ‘straunt has three rooms: the spacious front dining room boasts large French doors that open to the street; the middle room is filled with over sized photographs expanding the space to feel like a vast farm-house; the back room is a charming garden that makes you feel like you are in your own backyard.
  • Ideal meal: Gooey cinnamon rolls ($8) to start & soft scrambled eggs ($14)
  • Address: Soho, 38 MacDougal St (between West Houston & Prince)
  • Prices: $6-$20

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The Smile (Noho)

The Smile

  • Why it’s worth it: Tucked away a few steps below street level, you’ll find The Smile, a hybrid general store and cafe; however, no one goes to The Smile to shop; they go to eat in the artfully rustic atmosphere.
  • Vibe/layout: With the music low and the tone conversational, this dimly lit, wood-ceilinged space emits a charming and tavernesque feel that is perfect for a meal with friends, family or a date. In addition, this ‘straunt is great for GF and vegetarian foodies!
  • Ideal meal: Moroccan lamb meatballs to start ($9) and spaghetti & heirloom tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella & basil ($15)
  • People behind The Smile: The owners, Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman, are the duo behind the Jane hotel ballroom and Westway and the chef, Melia Marden, is a Harvard grad and also the daughter of the art-world power couple Brice and Helen Marden.
  • Address: Noho, 26 Bond St (between Bowery & Lafayette)
  • Prices: $7-$24

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Larry Lawrence (Williamsburg): Speakeasy

Larry Lawrence

  • Getting in: It’s easy to miss Larry Lawrence as it is located down a long, concrete hallway demarcated by one word, “Bar.”
  • Vibe/layout: Before 11pm, this bar is nearly always deserted, but it does eventually fill up with people craving a quiet place to chat, drink and/or smoke, which you can do on the glassed-in upper-deck overlooking the bar. The earthy aspects of this bar, including the open, yet intimate space surrounded by brick, wood-paneling and custom furniture, give it a “ski-lodge” sort of feel. This spacious spot is dimly lit, stylish and sleek. On the ground floor, smoothly carved bar stools and wooden booths mark the perimeter, leaving a large amount of floor space for bigger crowds.
  • Drinks: Beers, wines, cocktails, shots… anything… it’s all about the atmosphere here.
  • F.Y.I.: This speakeasy is named after the owner’s childhood friend.
  • Straunt tip: Eat dinner at Caracas Arepa Bar next door, grab a drink at Larry Lawrence and then head to St.Mazie for another drink
  • Address: Williamsburg, 295 Grand St (between Havemeyer & Roebling St)
  • Prices: $4-$16

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East Pole (UES): Brunch

East Pole UES Brunch

  • Why it’s worth it: East Pole is the perfect combination of Upper East Side elegance and downtown fun, making it a great brunch spot for family or family friends. The ‘straunt is charming and the food is delicious and pretty to look at (which means the portions are small, but well-plated).
  • Vibe/Layout: This ‘straunt is housed in a historic brownstone and features outdoor tables and a dining room brightened by a skylight. The main dining room and bar are timeless, sophisticated and clean with whitewashed brick walls, vintage maps and subtle nautical accents. The tables, floors and ceilings are a mix of wood and plaster and lit with individual candles.
  • Ideal meal: Banana bread (and apple butter) to start ($10); Belgian corn & ricotta waffles, Phillips Farm Blueberries ($18)
  • F.Y.I.: Ben Towill and Phil Winser, owners of the Fat Radish, teamed up with Tom and Anthony Martignetti, proprietors of Brinkley’s, to open this UES ‘straunt. In addition, the nautical maps you see on the walls are from the Winser family’s personal collection.
  • Address: UES, 133 East 65th St (between Lex & Park)
  • Prices: $7-$25

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ABC Kitchen (Union Sq)

So, your parents are visiting you in NYC in 2 weeks and instruct you to make brunch, lunch or dinner reservations… what do you do? Immediately go to Opentable and make a reservation at ABC Kitchen.

ABC Kitchen

  • Why it’s worth it: This ‘straunt is located at the ABC Carpet & Home department store, which means you can browse trendy chandeliers and other items before heading to the bar…but back to the restaurant, this is how I would like to eat at my fancy country house, if I had a fancy country house.
  • Vibe/layout: The vibe is organic and Hamptons, airy, open and relaxed. The theme is sustainability, as most things on the menu come from local suppliers; the menus are made from recycled paper, the dun-colored place mats are compostable and after closing time, all leftovers are sent off to the compost heap. Everything, including the antique armoires, reclaimed-wood tables, clay dishware, chandeliers and wildflower table settings are gathered from local artisans in CT, NY and NJ.
  • Ideal meal: House made ricotta ravioli, herbs and tomato sauce ($15) or akaushi cheeseburger ($24)
  • F.Y.I.: We recommend making reservations 10 days in advance, as this is a Jean-George Vongerichten ‘straunt.
  • For the artsy ‘straunters: Among the local artists and artisans who contributed to this ‘straunt’s decor are Jan Burtz (handmade porcelain plates), Jim Denney (recycle-wood tables), Eric Slayton (steel and concrete art installations) and Elena Lyakir (abstract nature photography).
  • Address: Union Square/Flatiron/Gramercy, 35 East 18th St (between Broadway and Park)
  • Prices: $8-$39

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